- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Opening statements in the corruption trial of a former state Assembly speaker appeared likely to start Tuesday after a judge questioned jurors into the evening Monday.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni said she hoped opening statements could occur Tuesday morning after jury selection is completed in the trial of Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.

The judge questioned several dozen prospective jurors individually over a 10-hour stretch to identify biases that could contaminate Silver’s trial.

Silver was arrested in January on charges he took nearly $4 million in kickbacks and payoffs characterized as attorney referral fees. He is free on bail and has said he will be vindicated.

His lawyers say federal prosecutors are unfairly going after him for practices that have long been sanctioned in Albany.

Silver, 71, stepped down from his speaker post after his arrest but retained his Assembly seat. The charges he faces carry a potential penalty of 130 years in prison upon conviction.

Months after Silver’s arrest, prosecutors charged the state Senate leader, Dean Skelos, with extortion and soliciting bribes. They said Skelos, the state’s most powerful Republican official at the time, used his position to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for his son, who also was charged.

Skelos, 67, has said he and his son will be found innocent. They go to trial this month as well.

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